Ultimate Grail Knife – 22 Years in the Making!

November 30, 2014

Among knife aficionados, you’ll often hear the term ‘grail knife’. This usually refers to a knife the ‘afi’ in question has a hard time to hunt down and that’s number 1 on his wish list. I’ve been careful not to throw the term around too much myself. However, the knife I’m posting here is certainly worthy of the moniker. This fall, I scored a vintage Al Mar model 4009 Commemorative Presidential Bowie knife. I had been pining for this knife since I first got into knives in the early 90s. Now, this very same knife is mine!

Click for a full size image in a new window/tab

My main EDC and collection interest is Spyderco and I cannot imagine that to change. Before I arrived at the Golden brand, however, I went through all major factory brands and some custom makers. I carried, used and collected a little bit of everything. Al Mar was a brand that appealed to me very early on. Not so much for use, but for the pure enjoyment of collecting. The wood, leather and brass parts, combined with very powerful blade profiles, are still an irresistible combination to me. Later on, I was delighted to learn that Al Mar played an instrumental role in the founding of Spyderco. On a vacation trip to Switzerland around 1992, I visited a knife shop that featured this massive Al Mar bowie knife in its own red velvet lined lacquered box. It was love at first sight, but the price was astronomical.

Click for a full size image in a new window/tab

Swiss knife shop
During my first trip to Switzerland I was pleasantly surprised. Every town seemed to feature knife shops! As you’d expect, they were all stocked to the ceiling with traditional Swiss army knives. But you’d also find plenty of cool ‘real’ knives. In one of these towns, close to our camping site in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, I found the shop that carried this Al Mar Presidential Bowie. My dad taught some courses there, and we would often combine our family vacation with these courses. This way, I would visit the shop every couple of years and I’d always be heartbroken to see this awesome knife still sitting there. But it was simply too expensive for me.

Click for a full size image in a new window/tab

Mission
Since my dad passed a few years ago, we still like to occasionally visit the area for family vacations. This year was different as I had a mission. I’d been saving up and this time, I was determined to take the knife home with me. Despite my growing worries about the knife being sold, I was relieved to find the knife still sitting there in a dark corner of the basement-level in the shop! The store had been slowly transforming from a real knife shop into a shop focusing on souvenirs and culinary items. In the basement were some of the last ‘real’ knives. I had to play it cool, as I wanted to negotiate a lower price. I noticed the handle color had faded a bit, there didn’t seem to be a certificate and the wooden case’s lid had warped just a tiny bit. And don’t forget, this knife hadn’t sold for over 20 years. There should be some room for negotiation right?

Click for a full size image in a new window/tab

Negotiation
It turned out that the Swiss aren’t accustomed to haggling. I had to speak to the manager who wouldn’t be in for a few days. That was OK, after all those years I could wait another day or two. It turned out that the manager worked for the previous owner, who passed away a few years earlier. He was a collector and he loved this knife as well. It was actually the only knife still left in the shop that he had acquired. The conversation didn’t go very easy at first, but once she noticed that I was a real collector things got better and we struck a deal. She finally said that she only agreed to negotiate, because she figured it would be going to a proper home.

Click for a full size image in a new window/tab

My knife
The knife itself is still in excellent condition. It just needed a little bit of cleaning up (I know I hurt the collector value, but this is MY knife now!). After polishing the brass guard with a mild brass cleaner, I noticed a number in the guard. According to an old Al Mar catalog, this commemorative Bowie was released in a 100 piece run. It turns out that I got number 16! I also cleaned and carefully polished the green pakkawood handle with some renaissance wax. This significantly improved the color fading I noticed earlier. The handle is actually a one-piece design that exposes the tang only on the spine of the handle. The massive blade is about 12 inches long, 2 inches wide and 0.196 inches thick. It certainly held up well all those years. Although it shows no signs of resharpening etc.., the edge was still screaming sharp. The etching is also in excellent condition. I did notice a few imperfections in the blade’s polish from the manufacturer, through my magnifying glass. It doesn’t show up in regular handling and display though.

Click for a full size image in a new window/tab

Boxes
The lid on the box shows some slight warping, but it is not dinged or scratched. The box is a shiny lacquered wooden affair. I also noticed a few of the nails from the hinges were loose. I carefully fixed that, again, I know this hurts the market value but I still don’t care ;-). The lock came with one key and the mechanism still works well. I added a drop of oil just to be on the safe side. The velvet lining in the box was not cut, torn or worn in any way. There was just a bit of dust that I carefully brushed off. There was no sheath with this knife. A moot point; as I cannot imagine actually carrying this magnificent blade. After a thorough search of the warehouse area, the shop manager even turned up the original blue cardboard box. The knife did not come with any paperwork and I do kind of miss the certificate, which I’ve seen in both a vintage catalog and several eBay auctions.

Click for a full size image in a new window/tab

Overall
I’m incredibly happy and satisfied that this knife is now in my collection. I visited this knife many times in the 22 years that I knew it existed, and now I was able to take it home with me. I get a little boost of nostalgia every time I look at this beast of a knife. Although the knife was designed to look the part, the construction is old-fashioned Al Mar. the same construction that was put in the famous field knives, was also used to manufacture this beautiful Bowie. The knife handles surprisingly light and the grip is quite ergonomic. I might offer my daughters to use this knife to cut their wedding cakes. I can’t think of any other use that I would risk scratching the finish of this great looking knife. Thank you Al Mar for creating such an awesome design, and of course for helping Sal to produce his first Spyderco knife!


Spyderco Lum Tanto Sprint Home Run

October 1, 2014

This is why I LOVE Spyderco sprint runs. I never got around to snagging the Bob Lum designed fixed blade Tanto when Spyderco produced it many years ago. As is so often the case, I only discovered the beauty of this blade when I couldn’t get one. So when I saw the prototype for this knife laying on the table at the Amsterdam Meet, I certainly took note. A year or so later and I managed to score one.

lumtanto_spyderco

I’m very happy with this sprint run version. To me, the burgundy paperstone handle is way prettier than the original black micarta. I will admit that this design isn’t the most practical for my uses, so the Tanto won’t see any real use with me. However, if I were still involved in traditional Japanese martial arts, I would have taken this knife along for demonstrations and such.

lumtanto_spyderco_bladereverse

For a collector, sometimes using is not needed to appreciate a knife. The Lum Tanto’s grind lines are very nice and it’s a stunning piece to look at. The workmanship is certainly top notch; from the polish of the blade all the way to the stitching in the sheath. This knife is one of the highlights of my display case, and sometimes that’s more than enough. Well, that and the hunt for the next knife!

lumtanto_spyderco_reverse

lumtanto_spyderco_blade


Spyderco Homemaker, who needs a blender?

August 20, 2014

click for a full size image in a new window

Last week, my wife asked me to help her out in the kitchen. She needed a few tangerine skins chopped up to garnish a cake. Since I love helping out in the kitchen with all sorts of cutting chores, always a good opportunity to try out a new knife, I readily volunteered. Our well worn Spyderco Homemaker did quite a nice job; who needs a blender right?


Spyderco Chaparral Titanium Stepped into my Collection

June 22, 2014

The Spyderco Chaparral ‘3’ with its stepped titanium handle is the most expensive (MSRP) spydie so far, so this one won’t be a big hit with folks looking for a simple hard working knife. Still, it’s a very striking design and I’m very pleased with it. There has been plenty of discussion about this model being overpriced etc… I won’t get into that, but I will predict that in a couple of years a -lot- of collectors will lament not getting one for this price when they could. The Chaparral ‘3’ is bound to become a ‘grail’ knife for many.

Click for a full size image in a new window

The fit and finish are simply superb; I couldn’t detect any flaws on the steps or any other part of the knife. The Chaparral opens smoothly and locks up tight, the edge came very sharp from the box and the clip was easy to switch. Basically, it’s a really nice gent’s folder and a great utility EDC folder. The Chaparral makes for a superb universal opener and a limited food prep knife. Function-wise it’s just as nice as my ‘titanium stealth Chaparral’, that I reviewed in more detail back in 2012.

Click for a full size image in a new window

Handle pattern
As is obvious from the photos, the handle pattern features an intricate design of tiny steps. I understand it takes a lot of fairly complicated machining, and the design took quite some time to develop. Spyderco apparently can only make about 10 per day, so the stepped titanium Chaparral is not going to be widely available at dealers. What impresses me is that there are no curved lines in the handle. All the machining is done with straight cuts.

Click for a full size image in a new window

Escher
The steps in the Chaparral’s handle remind me of the art by M.C. Escher who, apart from having the best initials ever for rap battles with fellow artists, was a Dutchmen like me. So I carry this little gem with a bit of extra pride. The wow-factor of the design is simply off the charts. The Chaparral stepped titanium is currently the best conversation piece in my collection and it’s the best liked knife by the non-knife people I know. That is, until they hear of the price, or rather my unwillingness to share the actual price when they ask. You’ve been there, right?

Click for a full size image in a new window

Obsession
As much as I love my spydies, I totally ‘get’ the obsession fellow spyderknuts have with custom knives or mid-techs like the excellent Sebenza by Chris Reeve. Whenever I get that urge, I just clip on the Chaparral ‘3’ and I’m good, knowing that this is a much more ergonomic design with the best opening device for folding knives, the Spyderco opening hole.

Click here to see photos, video and information on the Stepped Titanium Chaparral 2013 prototype.


Classic Spyderco Spotlight: C71 Salsa

May 31, 2014

I felt like clipping on a pair of vintage spydies today, and my eyes fell on these Salsas. This was one of Spyderco’s first forays into having knives produced in Taiwan. IIRC, this design came shortly after the Li’l Temperance folding knife. And, to me, the Salsa always seemed like a slightly smaller and even more PC version of the Li’l Temp.

Click for a full size image in a new window

The Li’l Temperance and Salsa are both so-called li’l big knives featuring a full grip and a wide flat ground blade with a compression lock. The Li’l Temp’s production quality and overall fit and finish is definitely better than the Salsa though. But the Salsa’s colors and rounded tips make them especially suitable for educating non-knife people to the benefits of carrying a pocket knife. I never like the original pepper designs on the aluminum Salsas, so I was really happy to score these two knives. I just wish the cranberry Salsa featured a left-handed clip mounting option.

Click for a full size image in a new window

Click for a full size image in a new window

Click for a full size image in a new window


Spyderco 2014 Prototypes Overview

April 21, 2014

I finally got around to organizing all my posts of the upcoming Spyderco prototypes for 2014. Here’s all of them combined in one overview. Also see my prototype page, for a collection of links and thumbnails leading to all the Spyderco prototypes I photographed over the years.

Shirley & Owens ARK, Diaconescu Battlestation, Bradley Fixed Blade
spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productuctionprototype_ARK&sheath spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionsample_battlestation_clipside spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionprototype_bradleyfixedblade_1

Burch Chubby, Dice, Panchenko Dog Tag Folder
spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionprototype_chubby_handle spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionprototype_dice_flipper spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionprototype_dogtagfolder_closed_3

Dragonfly Super Blue, Endura Ti / Damascus, Carey Firefly
spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionsample_dragonflysuperblue_blade spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionsample_enduratidamascus_clip spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionsample_firefly_halfopen

Schempp Frontier, Knutson Introvert, Mehr K2
spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionprototype_frontier_inhand_2 spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_conceptmodel_introvert_inhand_3 spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionprototype_K2_halfopen

Kiwi G-10, Pauletta Lil’ LionSpy, Mike Draper
spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionprototype_kiwig10 spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionprototype_lillionspy spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionsample_mikedraper

Native 5 Lightweight, Paramilitary 2 Composite, Lum Tanto Sprint
spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionsample_native5lightweight_clip spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionsample_paramilitary2compositesprint_blade_3 spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionsample_lumtanto_2

Read PITS, Roadie, Panchenko Roc
spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionprototype_PITS_blade spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionprototype_roadie_blade spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionprototype_roc_blade

Carey Rubicon, Slysz Bowie, Southard flipper in All-Black
spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionsample_rubicon spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionprototype_slyszbowie spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionsample_southardallblack

Spin & Concept Model – Bead, Spy-DK, Tatanka
spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionprototype_spin&minibead_conceptmodel_handle spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionsample_spydk_handle spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionsample_tatanka_handle

Worker G-10
spyderco_amsterdammeet2014_productionsample_workergreeng10_blade


Spyderco 2014 Prototype Video – Ed Schempp Frontier

March 22, 2014

The last Spyderco prototype I got on video this year, is the Ed Schempp Frontier. This knife was my number one favorite of all the prototypes Spyderco showed this year. This Ed Schempp design will be a great addition to the Spyderco series of ethnic folders. Eric Glesser from Spyderco gives a quick tour of this knife at the IWA Show in Germany.

I have no information on the pricing or (planned) availability of this knife.

For a close-up view of the Frontier, check out this entry.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 215 other followers